Thugs at Peradeniya University | Sunday Observer

Thugs at Peradeniya University

18 December, 2022

The University of Peradeniya is one of the oldest and leading universities in Sri Lanka which is very much in demand among students for these reasons. But as of recently, despite its beautiful surroundings the university has been tarnished as it has now been converted into a torture camp by certain student groups leaving some parents apprehensive of sending their children to be educated at the once honoured institution.

The finger has been directly pointed at student unions in the university while acting as representatives, or rather cats paws of various political parties. They have brought the university system to near collapse and converted it into a gulag instead. The activities of these students’ unions have once again become a topic of discussion following the brutal and bloody attack on Prof. Atula Senaratne.

Senaratne, a Professor of Geology served as the Vice Chancellor of the University in 2012 and 2015. The attack on him has received widespread condemnation while calls for violence and thuggery to be stamped out of the university system have heightened.

The incident has brought flashbacks to many university lectures of two gruesome incidents that took place on March 18, and September 11, 1989 when the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Prof. Stanley Wijesundara and Vice Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, Prof Chandraratne Patuwanavithana were murdered within the University grounds. Many have begun to feel that dark shadows of this violent past have begun to lurk within the country’s higher education institutions once more.

While Senaratne’s son was also partially to be blamed for the altercation that led to the eventual attack, the students’ role in the incident has been highlighted as they have been brazen enough to assault a Professor and a former Vice Chancellor of their own university.

While the university students claim, Senaratne’s son while drunk knocked against two parked motorcycles belonging to students, the former Vice Chancellor’s son claims the argument broke out after he attempted to move a motorcycle that was blocking his way. The Police have nullified the claims made by the students as they have been unable to find any sign or scratch to prove Senaratne’s son had knocked against two motorcycles as alleged.

According to sources, the first altercation had taken place at 9.24 p.m. on the day near the Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra Open Air Theatre located at the University. A group of students had gathered near the venue when Prof Atula Senaratne’s son Vidura Senaratne in a vehicle bearing number plate CP CAP 2719 arrived attempting to go past the location. However, several motorcycles belonging to students had been parked blocking the way. This was an usual occurrence as this road within the university premises was often deserted at night.

Vidura arriving at the spot had honked the horn several times signalling the students to move the motorcycles out of the way allowing him to pass. But receiving no response an enraged Vidura alights from the car. Going near the motorcycles he kicks one bearing number plate SB BEU 7959 sending it toppling along with another motorcycle bearing number plate SP BDM 2909. As students rushed to the spot, Vidura gets into his car and flees the scene.

However, determined to not allow Vidura to get away, the students got onto the motorcycles to chase him down while also placing calls to others asking them to block all roads leading out of the university. The students finally catch up with Vidura at the quarters provided to his father by the university. The students now grown to a group of at least 30 - 50 surround Vidura in the garden and begin to assault him. Prof Senaratne’s wife witnessing the incident informed her husband of the troubling events taking place outside.

As Prof. Senaratne steps out of the house attempting to shield his son, he even shouted out he was the former Vice Chancellor of the university. The students refusing to listen had pushed the Professor away and continued their merciless assault on Vidura. The professor’s wife and their domestic help were also shoved and threatened by the group of students.

Witnessing the event, Prof. Ariyaratne had arrived at the scene and along with Prof. Senaratne managed to get Vidura safely inside the house. As Senaratne stood guard at the front, a group then breaks down the back door in search of Vidura. However, they were unable to wreak more havoc as the university security and disciplinary officers finally arrived on the scene along with the Peradeniya Police.

As they continued to behave in a violent manner, the situation only became tenser as over 300 students had by now gathered at the location. As the students demanded action be taken against Vidura, the Police were left with no choice but to follow suit.

The Police then arrested Vidura not only due to the demands of the students but for his own safety. Vidura was also admitted to the Peradeniya Hospital and was later transferred to a private hospital for further treatment. Prof. Atula Senaratne was also admitted to the Kandy Hospital and then transfered to a private hospital claiming he was also attacked and injured in the incident.

According to Senaratne, this was the first time he had faced a similar incident in his four decades as a university lecturer. “I was even verbally abused and assaulted by students. I felt helpless,” he said.